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Architects are fighting back. After their cause was hampered by the ill-conceived high-rises of the 60s and 70s, followed by the dire ‘traditional’ building of the Thatcher era, imaginative and sustainable housing is in the ascendant
Once upon a time new housing in Britain was terrible. Engendered by the fearful coupling of utopian architectural fanatics and of bureaucratic automata in local authorities, it was soulless, alienating, malfunctioning and often damp. Such at least is the conventional narrative which, if it overlooks many beautiful and conscientious works now being rediscovered, still contains a portion of truth.
This was in the time loosely known as the 60s and 70s, an era of state-led homebuilding that would be terminated by Margaret Thatcher, such that another kind of housing could flourish, terrible in a different way: Noddy houses, faux-traditional executive homes, could-be-anywhere progeny of developers’ calculations and planners’ vague strictures on being “in keeping”, brick boxes packed with miniature bedrooms and bathrooms that would look better in estate agents’ particulars than in real life. This story might be oversimplified too, although I can’t immediately see in what way.
Now, if you look carefully and avert your gaze from large quantities of obvious junk, it is possible to see that some new housing is, finally, not terrible. These glimmers of progress are partly due to the combination of the building industry and of regulations which, not always in perfect harmony with each other, have (touch wood) made homes warmer, drier, more accessible to the disabled, easier to maintain and sometimes better dimensioned than they have been in the recent past. […]